The stars have been aligning for this subject. First, I began reading "Rosalie and Radishes: A History of Long Beach, Mississippi" by Mary Ellen Alexander. Then I learned the Second Annual Long Beach Fest is Saturday, and I plan to attend.
I chose "Rosalie and Radishes" because I wanted to more about the history of The Friendly City (an appropriate slogan), and I am a sucker for local history combined with plenty of old photos.
I knew that radishes had been a big crop for Long Beach back in the day, but the level to which the town shipped out the little red roots surprised me. It was the Radish Capital of America around the turn of the century.
Hmm, I thought. That's a pretty specific honor. Why so many radishes?
Alexander readily answered my question: "One might ask why the demand for radishes in the northern cities was so great that they were shipped there in rail-car quantities. The answer is that, in the beer parlors and saloons of those cities during pre-prohibition days, radishes were served as an accompaniment to beer, much as pretzels and peanuts are served today."
Well, that makes sense. Not unlike the paprika-sprinkled munchies I recall a certain nightclub (now defunct) in Hattiesburg served back in my college days.
And now for my apology to Long Beach: I'm sorry, but it's just hard for me to appreciate radishes.
A friend loves, loves them. My great-aunt Rubye, who lived in Pittsburgh most of her adult life, just couldn't get enough of them. I remember when she would come to visit us when I was a child, she would even bring her own supply. I distinctly recall her contentedly crunching away on radish slices for a nighttime snack.
I had tried them before but decided "hot, musty attic" was the best way to describe their taste. How could a close relative be so enamoured of them? I took a bite of an offered slice. No, I still got that horseradish kick with a musty flavor.
I asked my mother about it. She smiled, pulled me aside and whispered, "Aunt Rubye is a Yankee now. They like different things."
Decades later, I still can't conjure up a desire for radishes, but my appreciation of Long Beach continues and grows.